Are we over-protecting QBs?

Submitted by ScruffyTheJanitor on September 25th, 2018 at 8:14 AM

After the Monday night game Ben Roethlisberger made a few interesting comments about roughing the passer penalties.

"There's a lot of them," Roethlisberger said. "I don't want to criticize the officiating, especially when you're talking about a penalty that helps the quarterback out...  I can't imagine the fans at home are enjoying it too much."

This new NFL rules are really making things difficult to watch. The new targeting rules aren't so bad, but the new rule about allowing the full weight to land on the QB is just nonsense. 

What do you think? Are QB's getting too much protection?



September 25th, 2018 at 8:56 AM ^

I don't think we need to take it to the other extreme here, but when you've got a situation where the rules seem to be creating uncertainty and hesitation on one side of the ball, I think you now have problems - big problems - and it does harm the on-field product. I like good QB play as much as the next guy, but I want them to make those plays despite good defense, not because they are in a bubble where the defense is now hesitant to go. We should protect players, but I question if this is a good way to do it. 


September 25th, 2018 at 9:34 AM ^

In my opinion, it is an issue that needs correction from both players and officials on what players do and the subjectivity by which the officials make the calls.  I know that there is a "letter of the law" interpretation that officials have to abide by, but at the same time Clay Matthews simply did nothing wrong.  If that is called, you are literally penalizing a player for simply playing football.  An act that is actually "required" for the game to be itself is penalized.  That is the opposite of reason.

On the other hand, while I know that Brian (and I presume most of the Board) disagrees, I thought the call against Hudson on Saturday was the correct call, but it is due to a more subjective determination than the "letter of the law" description of targeting.  I believe the hit was both objectively unnecessary and avoidable, and while not your classic case of "helmet to helmet," was intended to inflict unnecessary violence outside of the game "proper."  Players 10 or 15 years ago would and could get away with a "send a message" hit where the QB has clearly thrown the ball or has started an obvious slide but a defender still drills them and it was seen as part of the game in the same sense as fighting in Hockey.  Those days are over.  Hudson may have began his tackling motion before the ball was out, but that is not going to be an adequate defense anymore.  Defensive players are going to be required to display advanced awareness of the circumstances and pull up there to the extent possible reduce impact.  They will adapt, and the game will be a better all around product when they do. 

I think both the college and the pro game will find some equilibrium and things will start to make sense regarding QB hits and targeting, but it is going to take some time and some trial and error.


September 25th, 2018 at 10:45 AM ^

What you are describing makes it sound like the defensive player in a split second have to make that decision. I Don't play football but I have played enough sport to say that it is very hard if not impossible. Now the punishment for that makes it hard to accept. Not playing one game? Awareness in a split second is not a good expectation. 


September 25th, 2018 at 10:56 AM ^

I am not saying it is particularly easy, but I don't think it is impossible nor overly burdersome in most circumstances.  Where possible, players are going to be required to self mitigate the violence in the game by making good decisions for player safety, not just for themselves, but for other players.  By the point of impact, did Hudson have time to process the fact that the ball had been released?  I believe he did.  Could Hudson have avoided contact with the Nebraska QB?  Almost certainly not.  Could he have mitigated the impact of the contact more so than he did?  Yes, I believe he could have.

I am not trying to single him out as an example, it was certainly not the most egregious form of anything.  I just believe that play exhibits a whole lot of the primary questions and issues regarding targeting in one individual play that can be analyzed.


September 25th, 2018 at 11:27 AM ^

I understand you are not singling him out. You are making a generic point. I feel like the expectation could either make them not go after the QB, which could make defense not very good, or Bush could hurt himself trying to do more to avoid collision. It feels that they are expecting the defensive player to do something to protect the QB but not sure there is enough guidance on what that would be other than just avoid the play completely.


September 25th, 2018 at 11:38 AM ^

I think there is a middle ground there that players are going to have to find.  Could it impact the game or what Bush can and cannot do in that circumstance?  Sure, it could.  But at some point we are going to have to decide whether we want a "revised" game or no game.  Expecting Bush to pull up there somehow is better and more realistic, IMO, than taking the pads off the players and fundamentally changing how the game is played.


September 25th, 2018 at 1:24 PM ^

Hudson's issue is dipping his head.  The hit wasn't late. If he hadn't lowered his head on the Nebraska hit, he wouldn't have been flagged (or shouldn't have been--I guess with that crew anything is possible).  

Brian's argument (paraphrased) seems to be "he didn't dip his head enough," which honestly--the rule doesn't distinguish but it does seem reasonable to say the official could have used some discretion there and not thrown the flag.  But the refs are told "when in doubt, call targeting" so I guess he was doing what the NCAA wants.


September 25th, 2018 at 8:24 AM ^

I understand what the NFL is doing. But by making it a strict liability offense, it's turned into a farce. Why not just go back to the in-the-grasp rule? People complained then that it didn't allow a QB to break a tackle but at least it was fair both ways. 


September 25th, 2018 at 8:25 AM ^

I'm of two minds: first of all, I don't like penalties that can't be avoided, like falling down and trying to not have your full weight land on whatever is directly below you. 

On the other hand, too many defenses have the "hit the QB so many times that he is bad" strategy, which is stupid. One MSU is enough.


September 25th, 2018 at 8:28 AM ^

The call against Clay Mathews is not football.  That was a textbook tackle.  

You can’t avoid that tackle unless you want to put a red shirt on the QB and call it touch for the QB. 

Hold This L

September 25th, 2018 at 1:32 PM ^

What’s kind of crazy is women’s hockey has a higher concussion rate than football and they aren’t allowed to hit at any level. Also I read this around the time it was published and it gives a different perspective into what the research and data everyone cites when talking about how dangerous football is, means:

Football is dangerous and so is hockey, they are inherently violent. I’ve had a few concussions from hockey but it didn’t stop me from playing. At some point, people need to realize that the players are choosing to play and participate. If a player goes out of his way tin hurt someone there should be a penalty but it’s getting to the point where you can’t hit anyone anymore. Find the normal middle ground



September 25th, 2018 at 8:29 AM ^

It’s a sport where you have men that weigh 250 pounds and can run 4.6 40s hit each other. Players are so big that it requires so much force to take ball carriers down. You can’t protect players without sacrificing part of the nature of the game. That’s what is happening here, and with targeting. Players continue to get bigger, faster, more skilled. I don’t know if there’s any way to avoid increased injuries other than experimenting with calls like this. 

I’d be curious what would happen with football if we started taking equipment away. Smaller pads, no more rock hard helmets. Players would stop using their heads and shoulders as weapons (not to blame them, like I said, it takes a lot of force to take down ball carriers nowadays). Would going more rugby style help? Hurt? I honestly have no idea. 


September 25th, 2018 at 8:52 AM ^

I'm not bashing you, but anyone who advocates for this (and there's at least one writer every year) has not thought it through. 

First. Saying that players would be safer if we take away their helmets is like saying that soldiers would be safer if we take away their kevlar and flak jackets. 

Second. There already WAS a period of football without helmets. People DIED, enough that the game almost went away forever. And that was the era of 185-lb. frat boys playing tackle.

With the athletes in the game today, taking away helmets would result in literal carnage. We need better equipment, not less equipment. 



September 25th, 2018 at 8:57 AM ^

But the better equipment allows players to use their bodies as weapons even more just as much as it would protect players. That’s what we’ve seen over the years. 

If we can’t protect players, then maybe the nature of the game needs to change. Does rugby suffer from the same issues? I honestly don’t know. It’s obviously not exactly the same, but still incredibly physical. 


September 25th, 2018 at 12:39 PM ^

It seems that most of the issues with the neck, spine arthritis are a result of the scrum, where players have their heads down and use their necks The concussions are a result of tackling, like in football. There isn't really a time in American football where players would need to be using their neck how they do in rugby. The latter also has many more tackles per match, resulting in more injuries. I wonder what the rate is, so we could see what sport has a higher rate of tackles per concussion or other injuries. 

It's hard to decide what would work best. Most concussions and severe injuries result from tackles. How players tackle has to be changed. Otherwise, the sport might be in trouble. 


September 25th, 2018 at 6:27 PM ^

The major point is that both sports, being extremely physical, high-contact games, carry major risks of both short- and long-term injury, albeit not the exact same ones. In both cases, you're really trying to make a safer cigarette. There's only so much that can be done to make them less dangerous without fundamentally altering how they're played.


September 25th, 2018 at 9:20 AM ^

Your premise is (mostly)  incorrect.  I am very curious what kind of equipment improvements you believe would be difference-makers here. I believe the attempts at rule adjustment are the best place to start. But currently, the ability to assuage the concerns with the consequences of "targeting" are struggling mightily...between inappropriate and inconsistent. 


September 25th, 2018 at 9:38 AM ^

I admittedly come from the camp that with less pads players will change the way they play the game and instinctively play with more regard for their own welfare, thus, likely creating a safer environment for all players.  Obviously, merely a theory.

I would more like to see equipment that protects both players during high speed impacts.  Why can we not sandwich the structural (hard plastics) component of pads, helmets inside of softer materials on both the outside and inside of the padding itself.  much of the protective equipment worn today while protecting the wearer, becomes a god-damned deadly weapon to the opponent.


September 25th, 2018 at 8:33 AM ^

yes, it's turning the game into a joke.  That game last night was an embarrassment.  If they keep this up, it's going to kill the league.  There is inherent risk in playing the game of football.  Don't like it.......don't play.  There are still people making a living in bull riding.  Do they ask the bull to only buck lightly to the left?


September 25th, 2018 at 2:15 PM ^

This so much.

They act like these players are forced into this stuff. They're choosing to participate in a sport that's tough and physical. If the players don't like it, then they don't have to play the game. I mean gosh, why not just wrap everyone in bubble wrap before each game?? Enough with the ridiculous safety police.


September 25th, 2018 at 9:46 AM ^

If I am having a bad round I will sometimes play the rest of the round with just my 7 iron and putter and my scoring for the day will improve for the rest of the round.  It actually kind of simplifies the game quite a bit and brings out "shotmaking."  It is kind of fun. 


September 25th, 2018 at 8:41 AM ^

Short answer, yes.

Longer answer, I think it's important to protect the players, but there is a way to do it that makes sense.  I understand wanting to keep the money-makers as safe as possible, but not at the expense of the game.  Poor damn Clay Matthews keeps getting penalized for what 99.9% of the football watching populace would call good football plays. Seriously, I'm a Lions fan and I feel bad for the guy. It's gotten to the point that every time the Lions got any kind of hit/sack on Brady on Sunday night I was bracing for the flag. The NFL needs to look at it's shit sooner rather than later.


September 25th, 2018 at 10:56 AM ^

I fully understand this argument, but I also really hate it. 

Part of it is being an old Michigan fan and having the concept of "The Team, The Team, The Team" pounded into me. Bo's speech is as true today as it was back then. After college you will play for a contract and yourself, not the team. 

I don't really watch NFL anymore because it has basically turned into a game where one person (the QB) controls everything. 

I think player safety should be first and foremost, but it should be equal for everyone. Selecting specific positions to protect more than others doesn't sound like a team sport.


September 25th, 2018 at 8:55 AM ^

Certainly too much protection. I didn't watch the game last night but the recent penalties on Clay Matthews have been crazy. From a cynical fan perspective, maybe I would prefer my team to not try to sack the QB as that seems a surefire way to give up a few free 15 yard gains per game.

At the end of the day I just want to watch good football. I want to see well blocked run plays, perfectly drawn up "pick" passing plays, and confusing defensive schemes. Hats off to the winner in those games.

Guys get hit hard, and I'm all for taking out the blatant "targeting" hits or purposeful diving at the knees of QB's. Unfortunately - and this is mainly in the NFL so far -  too many game results are being impacted by these roughing the passer or unnecessary roughness penalties in favor of the team who would have lost the same game 3 years ago. These are the calls that make me turn my TV off because, at that point, it seems it's not a football game I'm watching any more.

Watching From Afar

September 25th, 2018 at 9:04 AM ^

Weird that Roethlisberger is saying that considering during the Monday Night game he got a glancing slap to the side of his helmet from JPP's hand and acted like the Hulk punched him through the head.